Her main priority is getting them away from the airbase as far and as fast as possible. After the initial jolt of fear that Mulder was too out of it to follow her command to get in the car, she’d barely spared him a thought.
Now, with the icy adrenaline beginning to settle to a manageable thrum, and her heart rate gradually returning to something approaching normal, Scully chances a glance at him, and doesn’t much like what she sees. Mulder is staring straight ahead, eyes glassy and unfocused. He’s too pale, filmed with a layer of sweat, his hair and clothes rumpled.
“You okay, Mulder?” she asks him.
He seems to gather his voice before answering. “I think so.”
Scully fixes her eyes back on the road, trying hard not to be angry with him. Her teeth click together and she forces herself to relax. She unclenches her fingers from their death grip on the steering wheel.
“Scully, I – ” Mulder falters, and Scully risks another look at him. He doesn’t get any further.
“What?” she asks, a note of urgency seeping into her façade of calm.
“How did I get here?”
Scully’s teeth click against each other again as her jaw clamps. “You don’t remember?”
Mulder doesn’t answer for a moment. “Pull over,” he says abruptly. Scully complies, and Mulder stumbles out to be violently sick at the side of the road. Alarmed, Scully cuts the engine and jumps out the other side.
It doesn’t last long, and after a few moments Mulder crumples onto one knee like an awkward genuflection. He coughs once, twice, and Scully hands him a tissue from a packet in the glove compartment. Her hand feels like it’s glued to the space between his shoulder blades, but he hasn’t shaken it off, so it doesn’t matter.
She doesn’t want to hurry him, but her eyes are drawn to the road behind them. The base is out of sight, and nobody is chasing them; the officials at the gate were just as keen for them to leave as they were to do so – but she’s nervous nonetheless. The hairs on the back of her neck are at attention just thinking about what’s behind them – or what might be behind them: if Mulder doesn’t remember what happened, they’ll never know what it was the military are trying to hide at Ellens. She helps Mulder to his feet and he blinks hard, finally brushing her off as he gets in the passenger door and sinks into his seat.
They drive the rest of the way back to the motel mostly in silence. “There was something there, Scully,” Mulder rasps. Scully doesn’t reply.
When they return to the motel, Mulder sits down on the bed in a kind of stupor. Scully is thankful that he’s too spaced to mind that she stays, because when he crawls under the blanket and falls asleep, she can’t stop panicking that he’s breathing too slowly, that he’s sleeping too deeply, that she won’t be able to wake him up.
After about half an hour, however, he wakes up of his own accord, slightly more alert and steady on his feet. Scully takes this as a good sign, even thought the sharp intensity she has already come to associate with her still-new partner seems foggy and far away. This absence sets Scully’s back up.
“I want to go back and see Mrs. Budahas again,” Mulder says as he stands up, scraping a hand across his face. He still looks pretty wretched. He’s out of the door before Scully can finish saying, “I’ll drive.”
There’s no apology for ditching her, for deceiving her. Scully drives to the Budahas’ house and later begins the drive back to Washington in silence, and doesn’t bring it up, and doesn’t write it in her report either. She knows she should. Part of her even wants to – to show him. You trust me. We’re partners. You don’t lie to me, and you don’t leave me on my own. There’s a protocol. We stick to it.
But then she remembers the burning labs, all their research from that first case in Oregon, the disappearing paperwork, the nasal implant she’d handed to Blevins and heard nothing back. She decides to give Mulder the benefit of the doubt.
Trust has to be earned.